Thoroughly researched, beautifully rendered and cogently argued ... The Odyssey of Phillis Wheatley is at once historical biography at its best, literary analysis at its sharpest and a subversive indictment of current political discourse questioning the relevance of Black life in our country’s history ... Through his close readings of Wheatley’s poetry, Waldstreicher manages to both render a life and conduct a séance with an 18th-century Black woman whose thoughts and feelings are hard to discern ... Revelatory.
Historian David Waldstreicher knows Wheatley's world ... He places Wheatley squarely in her times and shows how she navigated them. In that he succeeds, but his limitation — and that of the book — is that despite his best efforts, Wheatley as a person remains a cipher. The Odyssey of Phillis Wheatley is not a cradle-to-grave biography, and a reader eager for details of this path-breaking writer's life will be frustrated ... Waldstreicher vividly re-creates Wheatley's Boston ... We don't know Phillis Wheatley — who she loved, how she struggled, how she navigated the daunting tasks of the everyday. If only a world class novelist would fill in the blanks. Wheatley's life is a story crying to be told.
The attention that Waldstreicher pays to the complexity of Wheatley’s identities as an African, a woman, and an enslaved person (among other identities) in his close readings of her poetry is sometimes missing from his discussion of her life ... Wheatley’s poetry comes into sharper focus, but Wheatley herself remains elusive.